The Land Use Planning Commission’s (LUPC) recent decision to certify the Central Maine Power corridor project ignores the enormous harm that the proposed transmission line would have on the recreational experience, scenic character, and natural resources of those areas under LUPC jurisdiction in Maine. While disappointing, we remain hopeful that the broader and more in-depth review required of the Department of Environmental Protection will result in the outcome that the majority of Mainers have been asking for since this project surfaced in 2017 – rejection of CMP’s flawed project.
CMP’s troubled transmission line project would be a bad deal for Maine and cause irreparable damage to the largest contiguous temperate forest in North America.
One of the most troubling impacts of the CMP corridor would be the impact on Maine’s world-class brook trout fishery. As Todd Towle, a registered Maine Guide and operator of Kingfisher River Guides, has said: “Maine is the last stronghold in the nation for brook trout and has the largest remaining brook trout population in the country. The CMP corridor would unnecessarily threaten brook trout and their habitat, these special places, and these unique Maine experiences.”
Despite these risks to Maine’s environment, CMP has consistently disrespected and downplayed the value of the Western Mountains for Maine people and the regional economy. In rushing this profit-driven scheme through the regulatory process, CMP has also failed to properly consider alternatives that would reduce the harm done to Maine’s environment or mitigate for the damage that would be done, a fact reinforce by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a 2019 letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
CMP’s corridor proposal is deeply unpopular throughout Maine. Twenty-five towns have already voted to oppose or rescind their support for the project, as have three county boards, two of the state’s largest unions, and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. According to a 2019 poll, 65% of Mainers oppose the project. This statistic holds up —at every single opportunity to share public comments, Maine people have overwhelmingly shown up to voice their concerns that the CMP corridor would forever change the character of the North Woods and is incompatible with the existing scenic and recreational uses on which the region depends. Mainers have also made it clear that with no verifiable reduction of carbon pollution, the project is simply not worth the enormous damage that would be done to Maine’s forests and wildlife.
Despite CMP’s claims in its multi-million-dollar advertising and public relations campaign, there is no evidence that the project would benefit the climate by reducing carbon pollution, a concern raised by the Massachusetts Attorney General, NRCM, and the Acadia Center, among others. During the last legislative session CMP hired any army of lobbyists to fight an objective analysis of its claimed climate benefits because the company knew it would reveal that these claims are false.
The bottom line is that CMP’s proposal is not about climate. It’s about making CMP more money. It’s a shell game to sell existing hydropower from Hydro-Quebec to Massachusetts because ratepayers there have agreed to pay more for it. CMP’s line would do nothing to reduce climate-changing pollution because there is no assurance it will result in new renewable energy being created.
If we are to take the actions necessary to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy, Maine must make investments in local clean energy projects that strengthen Maine’s communities and deliver real environmental benefits, not be distracted by a massive and harmful transmission corridor that will only serve to fill CMP’s pockets.
Sue Ely is Clean Energy Attorney for the Natural Resources Council of Maine